Province announces expanded rural broadband in Manitoba

Premier Brian Pallister and Central Services Minister Reg Hewler speak to media.

The province of Manitoba announced funding Thursday to help expand rural broadband and cell service in rural areas.

Premier Brian Pallister, who made the announcement alongside Central Services Minister Reg Hewler, Manitoba has signed a memorandum of understanding with Xplornet Communications, with the goal of connecting more than 125,000 underserved Manitobans to reliable, high-speed internet.

The deal will link almost 30 First Nations and 270 rural and northern communities with broadband services, and give 350 communities cellphone access.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of broadband connectivity and the need to ensure Manitobans have access to critical and timely information and services no matter where they live, work or travel in Manitoba,” said Pallister.

“We recognize the social and economic benefit of a connected Manitoba, and we are pleased to partner with Xplornet, one of Canada’s leading broadband service providers, to provide reliable, high-speed internet and cell services to Manitobans who have gone without these services for far too long.”

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Coverage in rural Manitoba for high-speed internet and cellphone service has been spotty or non-existent for years, which can lead to delays for first responders and other emergency situations as landline use drops.

Earlier this year, an agreement between three organizations was reached to funnel $260 million into broadband internet service in underserved rural Manitoba communities.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), Valley Fiber Ltd. and DIF Capital Partners announced the signing of an agreement in principle to contribute the funding to increase broadband through the Southern Manitoba Fibre project.

The project is expected to benefit up to more than 49,000 Manitoba households via 2,550 kilometres of fibre-optic cabling, and according to a release from CIB, will create up to 400 jobs during its construction, including 50 permanent jobs with Valley Fiber.

—With files from Sam Thompson


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